Traders at the various markets in Anambra State, particularly Eke Awka market in Awka South Local Government Area are lamenting the new tax regime of the governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
The traders are wondering about the rationale behind being forced to pay multiple taxes and levies on a daily basis.
It was gathered that shop owners in the markets were being taxed as much as N14,200 while the hawkers were randomly forced to pay N200 at various times and places every day.
A breakdown of the levy includes stallage fee of N4,800, market development fee of N2,400, market traders fee of N3,000, pollution/sanitation fee of N2,000, biometric market registration of N700.00, and market operation fee of N1,300.00.
Soludo had, during a meeting with parks and market executives in the state, disclosed the introduction of a new tax regime.
He said the move became imperative as the era of revenue generation through the sale of crude oil was gradually phasing out.
The traders were said to have been informed of the new development last week Thursday and were told to pay up between Tuesday to Friday.
Speaking to journalists in Awka on Wednesday, a former chairman of Eke Awka Market, Emeka Onyemaechi, said the state government had banned all cash payments of revenue since July 1.
Onyemaechi added that, to their surprise, people claiming to be government officials have been invading the market and demanding cash payment without any information from the government.
He said, “Last week Thursday, I was inside my shop when some people, claiming to be government revenue officials announced that we should pay N14,200 for our stallage and other fees from Tuesday.
“On Friday, I went to the Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue to find out the true position and the information I got was that on Tuesday, they would be coming to capture all shops in the market and everybody will pay N2,000 for the capturing, and after that, the government will give the account details where traders will pay their fees.
“Unfortunately, on Tuesday, that was a holiday, they started the capturing and collection of the N14,200. They forced people to the market, where over 20 Point of Sale terminals were stationed, and people without cash were asked to use their debit cards to pay. After that, I called the revenue office again and complained, they said we should pay.”
He, therefore, urged the state government to quickly address the issues of hiring private persons to collect revenue for the state government.
According to him, the government should have passed a notice to the market leaders about the development, if actually, the payment originated from the government.
He lamented that despite all the taxes and levies, some people were still extorting money from the hawkers, adding that whoever argued with them would be beaten to a stupor.
Another trader in the market, Mr. Kene Obunna, said that it was sad that the government was just forcing people to pay revenue using those who did not have shops in the market.
He lamented that the chairman of the market was living large in a hotel without having a single shop in the market and did not care about the problems the traders were facing in the market.
He accused the market chairman of using young men to intimidate people to pay or risk being beaten.
A source in the state board of internal revenue, who preferred not to be mentioned, confirmed that the state government had approved N14,200 for payment in Eke Awka market.
According to him, the government commenced the enumeration of traders in the market last Tuesday and after the capturing, everybody was given a code number to go and pay into government-approved banks and at the POS.
He said the payment in Eke Awka market was N12,200 and N2,000 for the capturing of traders thereby, bringing them to N14,200.
According to him, the capturing money covers the sticker and identity card.
He said the identity card was N700 while the sticker which would be placed in their shops was N1,300.
However, when contacted, the state Commissioner for Commence, Dr. Obinna Ngonadi, said he could not comment on the matter and thereafter, dropped the call.
The Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Christian Aburime, said the government would issue a statement on the matter at the appropriate time, adding that he could not confirm if the state government had approved the collection or not.
He said, “Just give us time we shall reach out on the development in Eke Awka.”